Wednesday, 15 October 2014

"The Gruffalo" by Julia Donaldson.  Illustrated by Alex Sheffer.

If you go down in the woods today ...............
make sure it's Hamsterley Forest near Bishop Auckland.

Take the children across the impressive new bridge that spans the river and follow the Gruffalo trail through the trees.
Cross the wood-and-metal bridge, enjoy the reflections in the water
before you reach . . .

 . . . this board.
Scuff your shoes through the dead leaves on the ground
and listen for the eerie call of the birds above your head.
Walk on until at last you spot a sign for the Gruffalo

and there he is standing in a clearing - The Gruffalo,bigger than a man but friendly in his  own ugly way!

Monday, 15 September 2014

"By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer."
-   Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885

I wonder how many people enjoyed last week's sunsets as much as I did.
From the back of my house I have wonderful views
of the sun going down and only a short time later
I can walk to the front and see the moon rising above the rooftops.

7.30 pm The sun sinks lower and the sky turns orange.

But on Sunday morning the swallows were swooping and diving across the sky or perching 
impatiently on telegraph wires as they prepared for their long flight to warmer climes.
And in the afternoon, Raby Castle near Staindrop welcomed a crowd of visitors on their Heritage Open Day. The 15th century walled garden, with an almost unbelievable riot of colour from its display of roses, was admired by many people while others paid a visit to the castle itself or explored the extensive parkland. A day to remember whatever their choice.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A few weeks ago I entered my story, “Body on the Track,” into the Room-to-Write Short Story Competition.

On 27th August the Long list was announced.
From about 200 entries, only 20 had reached this Longlist. Mine was one of them!
I was so proud and delighted and grateful to the judges who appreciated my work.

Many thanks to all the friends who sent messages and congratulations.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Welcome to Samson - he can never replace Gypsy but he's the latest addition to the long line of dogs this family have owned.
A lively 2 year old now;  he should enjoy at least another 10 years with the younger members of the family. Good luck, Sammy.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Cold Cotes Garden at Harrogate and Littlethorpe Manor, Ripon made a magical combination for an end-of-summer outing with a coach full of friends on Wednesday this week.
A Footpath at Cold Cotes

Cold Cotes is a small garden almost hidden between green hedges and twisting lanes – a delightful place where footpaths meander through trees and flowers blossom as high as a person’s head.  Be welcomed by the owner and hear how they’ve renovated the house and developed the garden over the last eighteen years. Drink coffee before exploring the garden; sit on wooden benches in shady corners; read poems written by Ed Loft and soak in the peaceful atmosphere before enjoying a really delicious lunch in their pristine café.

In complete contrast the second garden Littlethorpe Manor is a large estate offering 22 varied gardens and walks. Stroll under the arches hanging heavy with ripening apples; gaze at the fountain between statuesque trees; discover the pets’ graves in a small wood; walk round a lake with the clearest reflections of the building and trees beyond it and wander by the river that forms a boundary.

Already in August conkers are on the ground. A gardener explains how one of the ancient trees was almost blown down in a gale but some of it was saved and the damaged trunk is now a home for wild bees.
Continue across the grass and back to the Cut-Flower Garden; listen to the gasps of surprise and appreciation as people look at the beauty and colour of its beds. Even well known flowers are twice as high here as in other gardens and the colours defy description.  Congratulations to the head Gardener and his wife with their very knowledgeable assistant.

We came away with memories of a wonderful day and a coach full of healthy plants.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Favourite Devon Cafes

Tables with a Sea View at the Angel cafe at Babbacombe..

Good Plain Cooking here.
Mouth-watering Sandwiches - Overlooking the Sea at Torquay.
Seen inside the Crab Shack on the Back Beach at Teignmouth.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Auckland Castle in the centre of Bishop Auckland, is fast becoming a museum rather than the home of the Bishops of Durham as it had been for centuries. Yesterday as part of their Tudor exhibition they presented a lecture on costumes worn by Henry the Eighth and the ladies of the Court.
Julia with her husband
The Grandeur of Queen Elizabeth 1st
 It turned out to be a spell-binding account of their clothes and their lives, given by Julia Soare-McCormick, a real enthusiast who had graduated in Theatre Design from both Sunderland and Nottingham universities and had also sewn every garment worn by the four manikins as well as by her husband playing the role of Henry the Eighth; who at 6’1”tall had towered above the rest of the population.

 The clothes were all magnificent; perfect in every detail from the jewels and gold-thread that decorated the rich top garments to the cotton chemises worn against the skin.  Interwoven with all this, Julia told of their lives and executions with details surely not heard before.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

I can now recommend two more delightful cafes.  One in Craster; the other in Alnmouth, two beautiful villages on the Northumbrian coast.

Even on damp spring days these places are picturesque and entrancing.
The Fish restaurant, overlooking Craster’s tiny harbour, offers unusual and delicious meals.  With a view of the harbour outside and artists’ impressions of the sea inside, it is well worth visiting.  

Dandelion café close to the sea at Alnmouth is light and cheerful and serves tea in individual green pots complete with strainer and striped cup all on a wooden platter. Also soup and sandwiches and light meals. Another special place.

The Tiny harbour opposite the Fish Cafe.

Craster Village

Friday, 18 April 2014

Good Friday today
It has been a perfect spring day here in County Durham.  A day for driving through Weardale with its awe-inspiring scenery of hills and rivers; fields divided by stone walls and sturdy cottages that have withstood the extremes of winter and summer for generations.  The trees are beginning to show their foliage in a variety of greens; blackthorn bushes are a mass of white blossom; daffodils and celandines light up the verges and even dandelions add to the show while new-born lambs frolick round their tired mothers.

When people talk of the north of England it is often Yorkshire and Northumberland they’re thinking of, forgetting that Durham comes between the two.  If they do mention Durham it is probably only the city they know with its cathedral high above the other buildings or perhaps Auckland Castle, home to the Bishops of Durham in the small town of Bishop Auckland.
However, venture beyond the towns and out on the country roads and you will discover Teesdale and Weardale, each very beautiful, following the county’s main rivers. 

Today we chose Weardale, through the village of Witton-le-Wear and on to Wolsingham and Stanhope, the main “towns of the dale” then on again through the villages of Eastgate and Westgate, popular for caravanners; Daddry Shield where hills rise steeply from the road; and on to St. John’s Chapel to leave the car and walk along a narrow path by the river then to stand on a wooden footbridge and look down on the brown water spanned by substantial stepping stones and a ford that cyclists and cars were splashing through. 
As we retraced our steps we passed a very well-kept primary school and more cottages until we reached the church and the centre of the village. Opposite was a most welcome café – Chatterbox Café – run by a friendly young couple and serving delicious scones with jam as well as mouth watering meals.  I can definitely recommend the café and the whole trip. 

The sun continued to shine as we drove the 26 miles back home. Only one regret - I'd gone without my camera!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Lines Written in Early Spring
by William Wordsworth.

The birds around me hopped and played.
Their thoughts I cannot measure:-
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure. 

Earlier this week my garden birds decided that Spring had arrived.

My favourite pigeon enjoys an early morning bath  . . . .

. . 
 . . . .  before he rules the roost

Friday, 14 March 2014

Is it possible that a giant aircraft can vanish without trace?
The obvious answer would be “Certainly not.”
And yet last Saturday, March 8th 2014 a Boeing 777 did just that as it flew between Malaysia and Vietnam with 239 passengers of various nationalities on board.
There was no distress call from either of the pilots; no debris strewn across the waters below them or even within a wide range of their flight path. When two passengers were revealed to be travelling on stolen passports it was immediately presumed to be the work of terrorists.  However it seems these were asylum seekers, not terrorists – one a boy of 19 whose mother claims he was planning to start a new life in Germany; a criminal act, yes but not on the level of terrorism, and probably it would have been undiscovered had the flight gone according to plan.

Now officials in several countries are in desperate consultation to uncover the cause of the disaster and find the remains of the plane and its passengers. While heartbroken relatives wait for answers to this unique mystery we can only hope that the crew and passengers on this powerful plane did not have time to comprehend what was happening and so were saved at least some of the distress at the end.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Locomotion Museum at Shildon is making history by bringing together for the very last time six famous steam engines from around the world.
They are The Mallard; the Sir Nigel Gresley; The Bittern;
the Union of South Africa; the Dominion of Canada and the
Dwight D Eisenhower.
75,000 enthusiasts are expected to visit and yesterday, many had already arrived .  Elaborate cameras were much in evidence and it was touching to see elderly men instructing their small grandsons in the mystery of steam engines and reminding them of how Shildon had been involved in the growth of the railways and enjoyed employment and wealth as the industry thrived.

Mallard with its Five Surviving Sister Engines.

The Bittern

Monday, 3 February 2014

 Extreme Weather.

People who live here in County Durham, in the north-east of England, are prepared for extreme weather when winters last twice as long as those in the south. The temperatures are lower; the snow thicker and the ice on the roads  more treacherous. However, this winter we are counting our blessings. Already at the beginning of February, there have been no snowfalls and while we listen to talk of desperate flooding in the west of England we have escaped it here. This may be because of our steep hills and extensive moorland – our beautiful scenery that is not widely known or appreciated.
We can only sympathise with the people who live on the Somerset Levels where flooding has been extensive since Christmas.  According to Radio 4 the rainfall has been the most unusual for 100 years so that the land below our island is a saturated sponge and it was feared that the Severn Bore on Saturday would intensify the problems. One farmer reported that 95% of his land is under water and a lady told how her house is now surrounded by a moat and she has to clear the sludge that is full of dead earthworms!
Meanwhile in Aberystwyth mountainous waves crash over the sea front damaging the promenade and flooding the elegant houses there.
And still the rain continues. 

                      The Somerset Levels